Japanese fish cakes or “Taiyaki” as they are called in Japan, are probably one of the cutest cakes you’ll ever find. Baked in the shape of small, aquarium type fishes, these cakes may not be that different from other types of pastries in terms of content, but they are definitely cute and tasty.
The word “Taiyaki” in Japanese translates to baked sea bream, which is appropriate considering the nature of these pastries. Taiyaki fish cakes feature waffle-like shells and they contain all sorts of fillings. These fillings can include anything from custard and melted chocolate to vanilla and caramel. For those who prefer a more Japanese taste, there are also Taiyaki fish cakes that have sweetened red Azuki beans.
Taiyaki fish cakes are sold in many parts of Japan, but they are usually quite popular in winter, where they are sold at many festivals. Their association with winter festivities has to do with their warm fillings. The fish cakes and their fillings are kept warm by vendors, so as to provide their customers warm things to eat while they are out enjoying themselves.
Aside from their sweet, warm taste, Taiyaki fish cakes are also believed to offer good fortune, and this is because of the Japanese word for Sea Bream. The word, “Tai” sounds very similar to “medetai,” which means happiness or prosperity. There are also certain beliefs that Taiyaki cakes should be eaten first for good luck (or to prevent the fillings from spilling out), while others believe that the tail should be eaten first. Either way, these cakes make great snacks.
Taiyaki fish cakes may look different from other pastries, but they are essentially hollow cakes or waffles with fillings baked in the shape of a fishes. So if you want to create your own Taiyaki fish cakes, you won’t need any special ingredients. Go get some waffle, cake or pancake mix, some cream or filling of your choice and start making your Japanese fish cakes.
There are more complicated recipes out there, and some of them use uniquely Japanese ingredients, (like red Azuki beans, for example), but if you’ve never made these types of cakes before, it’s best to stick to something easier.
Having said that, the tricky part is getting a cast iron Taiyaki pan, but you can find many of them on the internet. Commercial establishments use large pans, but since we’re only concerned with personal consumption, it’s probably for the best to buy a small one. Other items that you’ll need include a mixing bowl, a spatula and pastry bags.
As we’ve mentioned before, making Taiyaki fish cakes is a little like creating waffles or pancakes with fillings. So start by preparing the waffle/pancake/cake mix and the ingredients for the fillings in your mixing bowls. Put these ingredients inside two separate pastry bags, and set them aside for later.
Open your cast iron Taiyaki pan and start filling each slot with the waffle, cake or pancake mix then with the cream fillings. Close the Taiyaki pan then heat the contents. Remove the little cakes when you’re finished then serve. You can also add a few extra ingredients on top of these cakes, like creams or even ice cream.